Recently, I’ve been in a very informative conversation with Thomas P.M. Barnett. In a series of posts, including
here at tdaxp, and
- Clinton v. Bush on the Balkans v Iraq/Afghanistan,
- Nation-building in Iraq: the good, the not-so-bad, and the ugly, and
- The side I’ve always been on
over at Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. We disagree on the nature of a war with Iran (Tom thinks it would be disasterous, I view it more as a non-event) while agreeing on the purpose and effects of the Iraq War.
In particular, Dr. Barnett wrote:
attacking Iran overloads the Core on feedback, thus putting it at risk. I can’t grow the Core if I split it, thus my fear.
This is a reasonable concern. Iran herself is is not particularly important. However, if the developed world is hurt by an Iran War through side effects, it would be a disaster.
So we have to look to the past. Are there examples of major Core powers attacking (without plans of occupying) important non-Core powers against the wishes of other Core powers?
The best example I can think of a “Core-splitting war” was the Falklands War of 1982.
Here anti-communist Britain attacks anti-communist Argentina. This was during the Age of Decolonization, where violent attacks on western powers were considered legitimate if the attackers supported disconnectedness, “anticolonization,” and “national resistance.” The French defense trade press praised Argentine victories (accomplished through French weapons), while America publicly condemned both sides while secretly aiding both the Argentines and the Brits. The war ended with a victory by the British and a subsequent revolution in Argentina that overthrow the military dictatorship and ushered in democracy. (A similar thing would later happen after the NATO war against Yugoslavia.)
But what effect did this divisive war have on the Core? Only one: The Falklands War ended the Age of Decolonization. Through its (albeit unilateral and divisive) flexing of muscle, Britain demonstrate that the Core would no longer cede land to the Gap.
The Core of 1982 was more more fragile than ours today. The New Core had yet to be welcomed to the club, and America, western Europe, and Japan were still enthralled by the ideas of government control and “planning.” Yet even in this weakened state, the only “overload” in the Falklands War was the lesson that the Gap attacks the Core at its peril. But this was a change in the nature of Core-Gap interaction. The Falklands War had no impact on intraCore behavior. Just as Iran does not matter today, Argentina just did not matter in 1982.